Similar to an Amber Alert for missing children, the Silver Alert is a public emergency notification system to help locate missing citizens with dementia or Alzheimer’s and who are 65 years of age or older.
Often, these individuals have wandered away from home and may be in danger.
If a missing vehicle is involved, Phoenix motorists will see these alerts displayed on overhead lighted message boards along interstates and highways. A make/model description and a license plate number are posted in the alert. The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) operates 193 of these freeway signs across the state, 108 are located in the Valley.
The alert system is coordinated in Arizona by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) in conjunction with ADOT and local law enforcement. DPS also operates the Arizona 511 System, a recorded telephone message and internet public service for roadway conditions and Sky Harbor airport information. Dial 511 to hear the recorded information or visit www.az511.gov.
The Silver Alerts have only been in use for a few years in the Valley. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the Silver Alert bill into law in April 2014 and it went into effect in July of the same year.
The action alert system was first implemented just a month later when an 87-year old male resident with dementia crawled out of his window at a Tucson group home facility. He was found safely later that evening at the VA hospital without the resources of the Silver Alert system, but the exercise demonstrated the quick-response value of the alert network.
There are strict criteria to meet before a Silver Alert can be issued to the public. The DPS makes an effort to prevent desensitizing the public to too many alert bulletins and exercising the system in only the most urgent circumstances. A missing persons report must be filed first, and law enforcement must have exhausted all other options. Lastly, police then are required to make a determination if the missing individual is in imminent danger.
In some states, use of the Silver Alert is expanded to mentally and physically challenged of any age, but in Arizona it remains used only for those 65 and older.
A Blue Alert is a similar public emergency notice, but it is used when a law enforcement officer (LEO) has been shot or critically injured and authorities have a description of an individual or vehicle fleeing the scene.
People do not realize that Alzheimer’s is not old age. It is a progressive and fatal disease and staggering amounts of people develop Alzheimer’s every day. – Melina Kanakaredes, Greek-American actress in primetime television dramas CSI:NY and Providence